The Morning After the Snow- Memories of “Katy and the Big Snow”, a Classic Children’s Book


At last the sun appeared, shining brightly.
Yesterday’s first snow was in full glory.

The first thing that popped into my head was, of course, a children’s book.  I wrote this post years ago, and it is as poignant today as ever.

“Katy and the Big Snow”, by Virginia Lee Burton is a classic children’s book that continues to be beloved today.  After two major snow storms this week, it was the perfect read.  The book never gets old, children always find something new.  This week was no exception.  Frankly, the book exploded into unexpected learning about a compass, geography, a yard stick, and more.

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It happened like this…

As we enjoyed reading the first page, I had an epiphany.  The border depicts all the trucks that belong to the highway department.  A border.  Wait a minute- the only other author that does that in her books is Jan Brett.  Of course; Jan Brett must have read “Katy and the Big Snow” when she was young and been inspired.  I felt like a child in school who “got it”.  This was exciting!

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We stopped to pull out “The Mitten” and “Three Snow Bears.”  They were different, yet the same; different because Jan Brett’s borders in her books are clues to the next page, the same because the borders in “Katy and the Big Snow” detail the story.  It took a long time to finish reading the first page.

A few pages later a child said, “There’s a compass.”  Sure enough, a compass is featured throughout the book.  Our “Big Book Atlas of the World” has a compass on each page, and we often talk about north, south, east, and west.  Understanding the geography of the town is key to Katy’s snow plowing in the story.  But wait, this compass is different!

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North is not pointing to the top, and there are eight main points, not four.  Quick thinking was necessary to seize this moment.  While I didn’t have a compass in the classroom (now I will), I had one on my phone.  We huddled together to look at the compass, and it was moving.  So, we spread out like a group of scouts on an expedition, walking around the classroom, finding north and more.

Back to the book’s compass, I asked children as I pointed, “If this is north and this is east, what is this (the smaller arrow)?”  Shouts of “Northeast!” came from everywhere, and with that momentum we identified all the points.

Then came the page with only words:

A strong wind came up and drifts began to form… one foot…. two feet….. three feet…… five feet…….. The snow reached the first story windows………. the second story windows…………

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The children seemed to understand that more dots in the text meant more snow.  As I read the words I held my hand above the floor to the approximate height, but that wasn’t enough.  I needed to show children how much snow is two feet, etc.  A yard stick to the rescue.  I use this in my classroom more than I use a ruler.  Young children need big!  I could show them one foot, two feet, three feet.  They got it- a lot of snow!

This is everybody’s favorite page, especially after measuring with a yardstick.  It puts a visual as to how much snow we measured, and beyond:

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So, Katy plowed out the roads in each location, north, south, east and west.  She helped the police, the schools, the airport, and of course the fire department.

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The story does not end here.  Learning and enthusiasm isn’t a switch that turns on and off.  It grows.  Today we looked at our new foot of snow and a child said, “It looks like  “Katy and the Big Snow.”  Yes, it did.  So, we went outside without coats, and with our trusty yardstick in hand to measure the snow.

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The snow was 16 inches high.  We went back inside and measured each other, the tables and chairs.  Everyone wanted to find 16 inches.  Children understood how that number on the yardstick measured the snow, and they wanted to measure, and measure again.  They understood that 16 was more than just a number.  In the eyes of the children 16 represented something concrete- eureka!  It clicked.  Boy, it was exciting to find 16 inches.

This is emergent curriculum at its best.  That means something sparks the interest of children, and a teacher builds upon it.  The most important learning, things that stick and are the foundation for more learning come from the children.  Math, science, geography, literacy, art… the list is a long one, and is greatly enhanced through emergent curriculum.  Katy and the Big Snow is a perfect example.

Oh, how I love reading-aloud and the windows that open to learning!

Jennie

About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in Book Review, books, children's books, Early Education, geography, Inspiration, Math, Nature, picture books, preschool, reading, Teaching young children and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

101 Responses to The Morning After the Snow- Memories of “Katy and the Big Snow”, a Classic Children’s Book

  1. Ritu says:

    Wonderful, Jennie!

  2. K.L. Hale says:

    Jennie,…some of my favorite books! And just look where this learning took the kids! Oh how I’d love to have had you as a teacher. ❄️❄️❤️🥰

  3. Darlene says:

    I love this!! Especially the children’s fascination with the measuring stick. When my daughter was young she spent a lot of time at my parent’s farm. They were the best babysitters and were great at using teachable moments. One time when she was about five or six I asked her about her stay. She said, “Did you know that Grandpa doesn’t have one thing on his farm that is exactly a metre long.” Of course not, he would have bought or made things when we were still on the imperial system. I Imagine he gave her a metre stick and she spent all day measuring things. Your posts bring back fond memories.

  4. I love emergent learning/teaching! It sounds like you all had a wonderful day that day!

  5. Perfectly wonderflu!! Just how love of reading and miracles happen… One read-aoud at a time!

  6. Annika Perry says:

    Wow! An inspirational book and reading aloud time! There are so many lessons learned along the way whilst having fun!

  7. beetleypete says:

    I reacall you featuring the Katie book previously. It looks like a beautfiul story indeed.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Jennie says:

      Yes! It’s been many years, and it was high time this book was posted again. I’m so glad you remembered. You would have loved this book as a child. Thank you, Pete.

  8. Ah Jennie a teacher’s dream experience. Thanks for sharing this cherry in the pie of teaching.

  9. I remember Katy and the Big Snow from my school days. I loved Virginia Lee Burton’s books. Thanks, Jennie.

  10. johnrieber says:

    Thank you for keeping books a part of our future!

  11. beth says:

    Wonderful blend of the real world with the literary world.

  12. Jim Borden says:

    what a wonderful lesson. it’s nce to take something abstract, like 16 inches, and then show them a practical example. As you note, that’s learning at its best.

    I remember reading that book to our boys when they were younger – it’s a classic. Reminds me of both Mike Mulligan and A Fish Out of Water, which is probably my all-time favorite children’s book…

  13. Carla says:

    I absolutely love reading about your emergent lessons. Talk about taking those teachable moments and running with them. Wonderful!

    • Jennie says:

      That is so kind, Carla! I’m glad you love these emergent lessons and teachable moments. I have many. It’s what I do. 😊 Thank you so much!

  14. Ellen says:

    As I read this lovely post I could not help but think :
    “Teachers have three loves:
    Love of Learning,
    Love of Learners,
    and the Love of bringing
    the first two loves together.” – Scott Hayden.
    I humbly apologize if this quote is a repeat but it bears repeating! Thank-you!

  15. Kudos to you!! Yes!! Emergent curriculum at its best. Lucky kids to have you as their teacher.

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  17. A very exciting learning extravaganza! A very good lesson in the vital service provided by the people who keep our roads drivable in the winter.

  18. srbottch says:

    I remember that story with our kids. Great visuals and once again, you related it to the real world. Nice work, Jennie.

  19. petespringerauthor says:

    Real-life learning is always the best. One of the fun ways we used to do measurement was to measure height vs. our wingspan. For most people, it is usually within one inch (plus or minus). My acronym for the cardinal directions was: Never Eat Soggy Worms.😊

  20. Dan Antion says:

    I love lessons like these, Jennie. Learning is cumulative and you are starting these kids out with a very good base on which to build.

  21. Another one of my favorite books!

  22. Norah says:

    Beautiful! Your lead photo of snow – and your teaching.

  23. Cool, cool, cool! Also, a fantastic example of ’emergent learning for teacher, too’! (ie- you ‘getting’ the connection between two authors and their book layout styles!!!!) The best teachers are lifelong learners!

  24. bosssybabe says:

    I love that you translated their learning from book to real-life! I love the book illustrations! 🙂

  25. Anita says:

    Lovely post, I enjoy the lessons.

  26. Whatever happens, you always make the best out of it, Jennie! 😉 Great to be tought, how children could become exited to learn. Thank you! xx Michael

  27. What a wonderful learning experience, Jennie. I just love how you incorporate books into your teaching and grow it.

  28. I had such a good time in your class today, Jennie. Such a perfect lesson.

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  30. I am sure music to your ears Jennie to hear a child voice his memory of a book read in class so vividly.. Definitely emphasising the importance of reading aloud and power of children’s books. xxx

  31. Beautiful, Jennie…keep going

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  33. “The Mitten” is one of my favorites, Jennie. 🙂 A wonderful post. Enjoy the snowy reading!

  34. It sounds like a wonderful book!

  35. Steven S. Wallace says:

    Terrific book. Such a great snow day story!!!

  36. Pingback: The Morning After the Snow- Memories of “Katy and the Big Snow”, a Classic Children’s Book – MobsterTiger

  37. You are the best teacher. You pace your lessons to the heart-beat of the children in your class.❤️💕

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